T.X. Hammes: "Limited Means Strategy: What to do when the cupboard is bare" in Infinity Journal
"Limited Means Strategy: What to do when the cupboard is bare."
By T.X. Hammes
Infinity Journal, Issue No. 3, Summer 2011, pages 8-10
Professor Eliot Cohen has suggested that a strategy should include assumptions, ends, ways, means, priorities, sequencing and a theory of victory. This approach significantly expands on the normal “ends, ways, and means” formulation. Yet each element listed by Cohen is essential. In my last commentary, I highlighted why defining assumptions correctly is the first step in developing an effective strategy. (Infinity Journal Issue 1) While getting the assumptions right and regularly reevaluating them is absolutely critical, it is only the first step. As many modern authors have noted, the real trick in strategy is achieving coherence among the ends, ways and means. Further, since one will never have sufficient resources to accomplish everything at once, the strategist must assign priorities so that operators can appropriately sequence the use of available assets. And of course, the strategy must answer the question of how these actions lead to success.
This short piece will examine only the need to consider situations where the nation has limited means relative to the task at hand. This discussion is not about fighting limited wars, since almost all wars are limited. Rather it is about fighting any war where, for whatever reason, resource limitation will constrain how the tasks are achieved. Such limitations exist across the spectrum from small wars to World War II. Even in that massive effort, the United States was forced to modify its strategic approach due to limitations on some resources.
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